The Capital One Cup is usually regarded as a mild inconvenience by the bigger clubs, an irritation that ranks somewhere between defrosting the freezer and paying a large electricity bill. You’d rather not, but it’s necessary and people will get cross if you don’t bother.
It’s comfortably the fourth priority for any English club involved in European competition, unless you’re Mike Ashley and you regard the Europa League as even lower.
Of course, teams tend to get a little more serious about the whole thing when it reaches the latter stages. The reserves and youth-teamers are thanked for their efforts in the early rounds, but when the Wembley arch is in sight, it’s time for the big boys to take over, because this is a meaningful business now.
Two of the participants in this week’s semifinals will be treating the Capital One Cup even more seriously than usual, simply because of, as Harold Macmillan is said to have remarked, “events, dear boy, events.”
At the start of the season, both Jose Mourinho and Brendan Rodgers had their sights set on loftier things and would perhaps not have imagined that the latter stages of the league cup would be so important, but going into Tuesday’s semifinal return leg at Stamford Bridge, it most definitely is.
For Rodgers, this is a chance for a trophy, for something tangible to show for his time in charge at Anfield rather than an exhilarating close call of a title race last season and pages of easily mockable quotes, and perhaps more importantly a springboard of inspiration for something more. Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest side won the competition in 1978 before the league title or European Cup victories, but he attributed great importance to the league cup because his players “got the taste for champagne — and they liked it.” Mourinho has always stressed the importance of winning the cup, which he did in 2005 (his first in England), so for Rodgers this has the potential to be a similar galvanising factor for his team.
There has been something missing from Liverpool this season that was there last, apart from the absence of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge: bravado, swagger, confidence, something that seemingly helped them hurtle hell for leather into every game after January. Their two brilliant strikers were obviously part of that and replacing them has proved enormously difficult, but this is still a team with potential and similar fundamental elements to it.
But it’s not as simple an equation as lifting the Capital One Cup equals further outstanding success, as Kenny Dalglish (won the cup in February 2012, got sacked that May) will tell you, but his was a profoundly flawed team without the potential of this one.
So this game is much more important to Liverpool, clearly. Well, sort of. It definitely was until the weekend, but perhaps not anymore. Mourinho was, to say the least, rather unhappy with Chelsea’s exit from the FA Cup at the hands of Bradford, declaring the result a “disgrace” and giving his players the silent treatment after the game. One imagines for his charges that was the equivalent of a parent saying “I’m not angry. I’m just disappointed.”
It’s not so much that the loose possibility of winning a quadruple, which was always a long shot to be filed somewhere near talk of Chelsea going undefeated throughout the season, is now gone, but more that losing a game like that was an affront to Mourinho’s dignity. This was the first time in his two spells at Chelsea that he has been defeated by a lower league side. In fact, scratch that, this was the first time he has ever been beaten by a lower league side, from his first job at Benfica to the present day. It’s also the first time he’s ever surrendered a two-goal lead and lost.
You just have to listen to the way Mourinho talks about his successes (“I am European champion” and so forth) to know how personally he regards his team’s performances. He regards himself as a personification of his side, which helps build up his prominently constructed ego when the result is positive, but the converse is that he will find results like this more embarrassing than most.
This is the sort of defeat that will focus minds at Stamford Bridge, if they were not focussed enough already. Mourinho and his team now have a point to prove, and a little like Bruce Banner when he’s angry, you wouldn’t like Jose when he’s indignant.
A semifinal should, by its very nature, be a vitally important game for both teams involved, but due to events and the respective egos and successes of the two managers, Chelsea vs. Liverpool on Tuesday night will be more important than most.
Malaysia Online Betting Website
Welcome to Malaysia Online Betting Website, lala88.com . Enjoy pc/mobile online casino risk-free betting sessions all day. Play your favourite slots for a fully responsive gaming experience. Friendly customer service support is 24/7 available for you!